A series of investigative reports on Florida's nursing home industry by the
Miami Herald showed that incidents of abuse and neglect typically occur in patterns
rather than as isolated incidents.
These troubling stories, published in 2011, raised relevant questions that
deserve answers: Who holds nursing homes responsible when they're
guilty of abuse and neglect? Where is the justice when an elderly or disabled
resident is harmed or even killed? Why do tragic stories of preventable
abuse still happen?
One of the homes featured in the series "Neglected to Death," was Sunshine Acres Loving Care in Washington County. Owned by Bruce
Hall, the home was at the center of hundreds of police calls, numerous
patient beatings, and complaints to state regulators. The home was open
for business for more than a decade, and during this time residents were
reportedly under constant attack.
Case study: Sunshine Acres Loving Care
Neighbors and the family members of residents reported Sunshine Acres numerous
times-to police and to state authorities with the Agency for Health Care
Administration (ACHA). But those complaints seemed to fall on deaf ears,
or at least ears that had other pressing concerns.
In 2004, state officials had already heard countless complaints about Hall's
home. The AHCA's own inspectors warned that the facility was dangerous.
Still, he was able to renew his license and even expand the facility.
Though he had broken the state's Assisted Living Facility (ALF) law
51 times, this was the third renewal he was granted.
In 2005, after Hall fell asleep during night duty, 71-year-old Elnora Shuler
wandered outside and drowned in a nearby pond. In that case, Hall admitted
his "complacency". In other situations, though, he blamed the
residents for the "ramshackle" state of the home. He claimed
the residents knew the "game" and were playing the system, manipulating him.
He blamed a resident when he shoved her to the ground, sending her to the
hospital with injuries. He blamed the residents when he was accused of
mental abuse-shouting and name-calling.
In 2006, state officials couldn't get residents at Sunshine Acres to
provide them with their names, as they were frightened that Hall would
retaliate if they spoke up about their abuse or the conditions in the home.
In 2008, officials were chased off the grounds of the home by an irate
Hall. A few months later, they finally denied his license renewal, but
gave him an additional year to sell the home. Now, after more than 115
citations from AHCA, Hall still holds the mortgage in a sale deal that
will allow him to earn $1.1 million over the next 10 years.
Other Florida Homes Have Similar Stories
Sunshine Acres is not an isolated incident. As part one of "Neglected
to Death" reveals, other homes across the state were accused of even
- One nursing home administrator was accused of driving a resident to pick
up a high-powered narcotic prescription and failing to get the pills from
him. That resident used the medication to drug a disabled 20-year-old
female at the home and raped her. She died of an overdose.
- Mentally ill residents of Rosalie Manor had to be rounded up from the streets
of Dunedin after being allowed to leave their home. They were accused
of breaking into schools, homes, and businesses. Police found the nursing
home owner had put another resident in charge of dispensing psychotropic
drugs to the patients in the home.
- A 74-year-old man died in the care of a nursing home that failed to provide
his medication, including antibiotics, for 13 days. The nursing home resident
also went several days without food and water.
- Several nursing homes were accused of punishing residents by withholding
food, restraining them, giving them powerful sedatives, and locking them
Nursing home neglect and abuse is intolerable, and those responsible should be held to account. And it's
not as uncommon as most of us would like to think. While reforms have
taken place since the 2011 expose from the Miami Herald, cases like these
still occur throughout the state.